Professor Eamon O' Shea, Director of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway
Feb 04 2016 Posted: 11:17 GMT

NUI Galway awarded Research Leader role to implement Ireland’s first National Dementia Strategy to be underpinned by high-quality evidence through research projects funded by the Health Research Board (HRB) and The Atlantic Philanthropies

Professor Eamon O' Shea, Director of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway has been selected as Research Leader of Dementia Care as part of the establishment of a new National Centre for Social Research on Dementia, which will start this year as a result of significant investment from the Health Research Board (HRB) and The Atlantic Philanthropies.

The establishment of a new National Centre for Social Research on Dementia and a suite of applied projects, exploring topics such as the use of home computer tablets for care management, dementia-friendly hospital design and the links between stroke and dementia, will start this year as a result of significant investment from the HRB and The Atlantic Philanthropies.

"The awards are part of a very deliberate and focused plan to improve dementia care", says Graham Love, the Chief Executive of the Health Research Board.

"They are aligned with the National Dementia Strategy and they all focus on improving quality of life for people living with dementia and those caring for them. From making our hospitals more friendly for dementia patients, or using technology to remotely track health markers like patient blood pressure and weight, each of these new projects will make a very real and tangible impact on people's lives and improve how we deliver their healthcare services."

Mary Sutton, Country Director for The Atlantic Philanthropies added that, "This is part of a broader investment by Atlantic in the development of dementia health and social care. With the HRB, we want to see the dementia landscape transformed through an infusion of new leadership in thought and practice, building research collaborations between academia and the wider practice and policy community both here in Ireland and also internationally."

A cornerstone of this integrated approach is the HRB Research Leader position in Dementia care. Professor Eamon O'Shea is a world-renowned expert on dementia and his Research Leader Award (RLA) represents a 5-year investment in dementia research between the HRB, NUI Galway and The Atlantic Philanthropies.

The post will be expected to influence and inform national policy and practice and strengthen an evidence-informed approach to healthcare delivery.

According to Professor O'Shea, "Too often people use the word 'burden' when talking about dementia. My vision is to champion a research programme and strategy that focuses on choice, capabilities, connectivity and personhood for people with dementia. This investment by the Health Research Board and The Atlantic Philanthropies will enable us to create a National Centre for Social Research on Dementia where the research focuses on the person living with the dementia and their needs, not just their symptoms.

Our aim is to do research that looks at the best ways to provide care for people living with dementia that are based on choice rather than just relying on the traditional residential care model. We want to understand how the person connects with others during the care process, and the role of family carers in understanding and delivering care.  Our interest is in personalised, non-pharmacological approaches to care such as physical exercise and the beneficial effects of non-pharmacological interventions. Ultimately it is about putting the person with dementia at the centre of decision-making at all times.

We have been very deliberate in our proposals. We are committed to working in partnership with key stakeholders in dementia-related activity and care in Ireland such as the Health Service Executive, the Alzheimer's Society of Ireland, and Genio. We will examine social, economic, civic, cultural and legal aspects of dementia so that we can enhance and enrich the lives of those with the condition."

Dr Dympna Casey from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at NUI Galway will also participate in the dementia research programme. Dr Casey’s role will focus on Comprehensive Resilience-building Psychosocial Intervention (CREST) to improve the quality of life of people with dementia and their carers. The project will combine a number of separate interventions into one umbrella programme to improve the quality of life for patients. It will comprise of four components to address: cognitive stimulation; group physical activity; dementia education; assistive technologies to support personal control and retain skills. The project will finalise the CREST intervention and undertake a pilot evaluation that will lead to a subsequent randomised control trial.

The new funidng will support:

  1. A HRB Research leader in Dementia to influence and inform national policy and practice and strengthen an evidence-informed approach to healthcare delivery (Award value: €1.6m over five years).
  2. A new HRB Interdisciplinary Capacity Enhancement (ICE) Award (Award value: €572,000, over three years) to support three post-doctoral positions to examine the links between stroke and dementia.
  3. Five new Applied Research Projects in Dementia (Award value €1.5m, with each lasting between two and three years). See summaries below for more detail.
  4. A new dementia research and practice knowledge exchange network (Award value: €150,000 over two years). This will support an independent, multi-disciplinary network of dementia related researchers, practitioners, patients, families and other stakeholders, to enhance exchange of information and views among members, improve dissemination and awareness of Irish dementia and related research, enhance exchange and public and patient involvement in dementia research and consolidate links and cooperation between all who have an interest in dementia or research.
  5. Four PhD Scholarship positionssupported by the HRB SPHeRE programme. This 'first-of-its-kind' in Ireland training programme was established by the HRB to develop a pool of researchers with the specialist skills to conduct population health and health services research. The four scholarships will have a special emphasis on dementia-related topics.

ENDS

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